I got to a point when I needed a brand new chapter. In the previous draft my alen was kept secret, hidden away in the shadows until about 60-70% of the way through when he revealed himself. It makes far more sense to have him pop up earlier though so his story has a bit more time to bed in as the book goes on. So it means writing a whole new chapter five from scratch as Pilot recovers from his crash landing on Earth.
But the problem became that I was stuck writing this new part and not getting on with rewriting all the other part I had to place in somewhere. The best feeling when rewriting is taking whole wads of text from the older version, cutting, pasting and then seeing the word count bump up another three thousand in seconds. There’s nowhere near as much staring at blank pages going on. It’s a bit of a downward bump to come back to that now.
I’m currently thinking of just putting the words ‘Blah, blah, alien’ in red letters on the page before skipping it for now and getting on with editing.
That’s it, the entry for the mentorship scheme has been sent. I could have sat and twiddled about with it more and more by moving individual words about into a different order to make it seem better but I would be kidding myself. The deadline is this Friday at 5pm, I did not want to be running around like a banshee pulling it all together in the final moments. There was a moment when Yahoo Mail wasn’t allowing me to put hyperlinks into the text. My wife detected me stressing and calmly advised just shutting down Chrome and going back in. This seemed to work.
I received an email back within half an hour saying that my entry had been noted. Apparently there are six spots in the scheme but really, for me, there’s only five because they’ve guaranteed one slot for somebody under the age of 24. This is probably a really good way of running it as there have been plenty of times recently when I’ve read about various writing schemes, thought it sounded great before realising that I’m far too old for the age range they’re open to. Seems like sometimes there’s a belief that if you haven’t made it by your mid 20’s then you’re never going to make it at all.
The personal statement I wrote was written, scrapped, written again and then changed about before finalising. Originally I went with something really formal like it was a job application. Then I wrote something that was very similar to the ‘About’ page on this site but that gave a bit too much history and I’d ran out of words before answering why I would benefit from mentorship. In the end I went for a story about how working a day job whilst having ambitions of writing for a living is a little bit like accidentally getting off the train at the station before the one you wanted. You’re on the right line but you’ve no choice but to wait for the next train to come along. It felt a bit strange putting that in there but it’s a writing based mentorship so they’ll be used to metaphors. At least I hope they are.
The response email signed off by saying that they’re running this every year and there are plans afoot to expand to more than 6 spaces as of 2020. Apparently there’s nothing to stop me applying again next year if unsuccessful this time around. I’m not sure if that’s a set up for a gentle let down later or not but I’m beyond caring now. Quite simply something that a week ago I was convincing myself wasn’t worth it because they wouldn’t want me is now something I’ve entered with the best of my current ability. I’ve honestly probably put more effort into this than any job application I’ve ever done.
For now though we crack on with the rewrite.
Observation so far.
It’s a hell of a lot easier taking blocks of text from the old draft file, pasting them into the lovely new one (that actually has a spell checker) and then cleaning them up from there rather than trying to come up with something from scratch. The blank screen is still there but with a couple of clicks you’re thinking that three thousand words have just landed and now you’ve just got to pick through them.
To be honest the opening chapter is…not that bad actually. It’s clear that I was rushing headlong into this story at the time of writing and wasn’t worried about story structure, word counts or themes yet. It’s pure and simply an introduction to one main character and her reactions to a town she used to know. Much like my alien the actual town itself didn’t have a name in the opening of draft one but it does now. I’m trying to make the effort to put as much of my small town Scotland experience into the town of Auldrigg. Reading parts of the initial rewrite now I imagine my Mum reading it and getting where all the references come from.
Having never really edited a first draft before I’m wondering what the first step is going to be. The most likely route I’ll be going down is writing down all my chapters in numerical order with a one sentence line about what happens in each. Then I’ll have a general overview about what happens in the story, what needs fixed and what needs cut all together. The concern I have is that I planned out nineteen chapters but it’s ended up being thirty four.
My other big worry right now is that there are parts in which I’ll expand outwards with. I’ve always been of the impression that you had to cut down when editing. The whole point is that you’re cutting down all the fat.
Yet here I am, with entire sections that are basically ‘something happens here’ that’ll need fleshed out. What I have at the moment is the pencil outline, I’m adding the shades right now.
I have a wrestling article to finish and a game review for a website. After that the battle starts all over again.
In a side note, for those keeping score, I made the fourth attempt at home made sourdough yesterday at it turned out like a Frisbee.
300g of starter
About 300ml of water.
And 5g rock salt
Has given me something that should be thrown as a sport not eaten
Back to attempt number five soon then.
I’ve woken up this morning with a genuine clarity of mind. It has in turn made me feel really good within myself. I think it stems from the first draft being finished last night.
Often during the process of having I writing project on the go I’ll feel guilty about doing the stuff I enjoy. There is always the inner voice asking why I’m not hunched over the keyboard right this very minute. If I want to be a writer so bad and for that to be my main job then why am I not writing with every spare second I have free? It can get really miserable and means that I stress about going places or doing other stuff.
‘I’m getting older and need to crack this writing thing now!’ I will think to myself somehow of the strange belief that every newly published author is below 25.
After writing ‘The End’ last night I made a cup of coffee, laid out some biscuits and watched some wrestling on TV. I’ve done this before over the last eighteen months of this book project but that feeling of this act being frivolous vanished last night. It felt wonderful and probably contributed to the clear headed feeling I had this morning.
I’m off to Manchester this weekend for a Doctor Who fan convention. It’s been booked for a couple of months but I had the usual worry about it beforehand. Thinking about it this morning gave me a much more enjoyable angle on it.
Whilst the book certainly isn’t ‘finished’ it has passed that first major hurdle. Psychologically it’s been more beneficial than I ever thought it would be.
School holidays are a really hard time to write. As much as I’d love to be blasting out one thousand words stretches each day it’s difficult to do that whilst my son is home. It would really feel like I was ignoring him.
Today we went shopping for second hand videogames (found some bargains too) and also stopped off to buy doughnuts. In less than two weeks he starts secondary school so he’s anxious as all hell right now.
I sat down to write after he had gone to bed but only managed 250 words. Not a great deal but 250 more than I had whilst I was eating a doughnut this morning.
Another few hundred words. It doesn’t sound like a lot but as of now I’m over the 50,000 words mark. When I think back to how long it took me to grind through the 30-40k part (about the entire of last winter it seems) then I’m really happy that I’ve gone through 40-50 in the last couple of months. I’m about 5000 words away from wrapping up a first draft.
The chapter I’m currently on is suffering a bit from being a written story that was once going to be a film. There’s quite a lot going on visually and I feel I’m maybe skimming over character’s reactions and thought processes.
But this is what rewrites are for!